Leon’s Wedding, Somewhere in Central Vietnam

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"In January of 1997, I biked from Hanoi to Saigon. On this particular day, I was driving my friend Hung Loung’s conventional tandem bike. Hung was on the back. Hung lives in Portland, Oregon where he works for UPS. He grew up in Vietnam and has biked from Hanoi to Saigon many times. I was fortunate to have him on board.

It was pouring rain and we were blasting down the road at about 20 mph, when Hung yelled at me to stop for the wedding that was going on at the roadside. We turned around and drove the tandem bike, covered with mud and road dirt, right into Leon’s wedding. Leon owns a Texaco station in Houston but came back to marry his Vietnamese bride. He was delighted to welcome us to the event and in the photo I am sitting at the "men’s table." They are trying to get me drunk with beer and I am trying to graciously decline in this picture. You have to try to imagine what its like to drive a tandem bicycle at high speeds in Vietnam. Beer is definitely not the appropriate thing to put in the mix. Most traffic moves at about 8 mph, and it is incredibly dense. The roads are crowded with everything from chickens to guys on motor scooters transporting panes of glass. Driving the tandem at 20 mph is a bit like living a wild video game.

Most people think travel in Vietnam would be frightening due to resentment toward Americans. Actually, quite the reverse is true. Everywhere I went, people were incredibly welcoming and delighted to meet me. You can get a sense of this in this picture. To me, this picture also demonstrated the wild unpredictability of life in Vietnam. Just when I thought I had seen everything on this trip, I had a new experience like meeting Leon and hearing his story."

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